world

On Climbing and Waiting for Rain

I wasn’t sure that I’d get very far after I left Samsun yesterday morning (Tuesday).

First, there were some horrendous weather forecasts flying around.  Most of which suggested that I’d be pinned down by thunderstorms and wave after wave of heavy rain until Saturday.

Second, it was time to hit the mountains again.  This was sure to slow me down, and so leave me trapped in the middle of nowhere as the lightning flashed and a month’s worth of rain fell in twenty minutes.

All in all, it looked a bit nasty as I pulled on my brand new cycling shorts*.  The cloud was already down on the tops of the hills around the city, and I almost decided just to go back to bed for a week, and wait for the rain to get to me.

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So far, it’s been a decent decision not to.

The clouds began to clear as soon as I turned inland, and the remnants of the breeze which had pushed me along the coast were funnelled by the hills into a little tailwind.  The road has been beautifully engineered throughout, too.  But it was still quite a surprise to start at sea level, and to hit a 900-metre (close to 3000 ft) pass before lunchtime.  At an average of 13 mph.  And in the sunshine, too.

I wasn’t fooled, though.  This was not allowed to be a brilliant day.  I knew the mass of rain that the TV news was showing couldn’t just disappear.  It was just a matter of time.  I watched the skies, suspiciously.

Still, as I rolled into Havsa yesterday afternoon, I was still bone dry.  There were a handful of heavy storms about, but they were all pretty small and none came too close.  I figured I’d got lucky, and prepared to be rained in the next morning.

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After watching the sun go down behind the mosque, I considered composing a few sentences on how my trip has also been a little window onto the Islamic world.  Then I realised that nobody likes a pretentious cycle-tourist, and went to bed instead.  To everyone’s great relief, I’m sure.

I was woken after midnight by the sound of rain pounding down outside.  I felt vindicated, and a little smug, and drifted back off again.

The morning sunlight woke me before my alarm went off.  I was confused.  There really wasn’t supposed to be any sunlight this morning (Wednesday).  I looked outside.  There were some clouds scudding about on what looked like a fairly strong headwind.  But nothing that really spelled the sustained heavy rain I was anticipating.

I put my jacket on against the wind, and pedalled onwards in the sunshine.  Towards Osmancik.  More hills, more tunnels, and another 1000-metre pass.  With a beautiful, swooping decent off the top (below), which was only partly spoiled by the headwind.

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But finally, as you can see above, the horizon was darkening.  A mass of cloud was rushing toward me.  This was obviously the forerunner of the huge area of rain.  I actually thought I’d cut it too fine as I dropped into town, with another small but vicious-looking storm pummelling the valley next door.

As you can see, I didn’t get under cover a moment too soon, as the sky blackened over the castle, and the rain began.

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It stopped five minutes later, having barely wet the street.  And although there have been a few evil-looking clouds about since, it’s still dry as darkness falls this evening.

The forecast, needless to say, reckons that it’s already raining here, and will do so (heavily) for the next 48 hours.

However the weather works out, I’ve got to congratulate the Turks on their main roads.  The climbs are very long, but barely get above 3%.  And the road surface is almost silky, meaning that the bike rolls really nicely on the inclines.

So, if the weather seems designed to make me look silly at the moment, the roads are making me look good.

There’s definitely a lot more climbing to come, though.  And I can’t help feeling that the rain’s going to have its say eventually…

* This was a great result: I found a far-flung branch of Decathlon (large, French outdoors store) in Samsun, so was able to get a cheap (but reasonable quality) pair to replace my original shorts, which… erm… seem to have melted.  Or maybe rotted.  Don’t ask…

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Beside The Seaside

I’m running slow again.

Not for the first time on this trip, despite flat terrain, I’m struggling to make decent daily mileage.  And putting in a 100-plus kilometre day on Friday left me feeling dreadful when I tried the same again the next morning.  After a day off yesterday, I’m hoping that I’ve recharged enough to push on north at a reasonable pace.  But it’s fair to say that I’m not exactly flying up the west coast.

It’s the heat.  And the fairly constant headwinds.  I guess you’ve heard more than enough about my sweat patterns and water consumption (only the location changes; Spain, USA, Australia – all the same old, self-pitying whining).  So I’ll trouble you no more about it.

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One thing I am enjoying enormously is the Malaysian town names.  I’m not sure if it’s just me (or the heat, dehydration etc), but a lot of them sound quite entertaining.  For example, the fountain / crown arrangement above was in Muar, which is definitely requires ‘har-har-har’ adding to it, to make a rather splendid evil laugh.  And, assuming I get my riding skates back on (so to speak), I should be spending tomorrow (Tuesday) evening in Klang.  Which will, ahem, probably be a little noisy…

OK…  It is just me, isn’t it?  Erm, best get on with what I’ve actually been doing for the last few days…

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Well, I hit the coast more-or-less as planned.  Though as with the coast roads in Indonesia, it’s not that often that you get a decent view.  The terrain here is pretty flat, and tends to be covered in trees, which doesn’t make for many great sweeping vistas.

But the roads remain well-surfaced, the drivers remain generally pretty decent, and the locals remain friendly and laid back.  Which made for relatively trouble-free progress to Melaka (used to be called Malacca in the olden days), with the exception of the weather, of which enough has already been made.

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Melaka’s got a lot of interesting history and culture going on.  There were local people there originally, using the harbour, but it was established as a sultanate, trading with the Chinese and others in the area, and was then controlled by the Portuguese and the Dutch for hundreds of years.  And that’s before the British Empire, Japanese occupation, and finally (so far) independence.  Phew.

You can see a lot of these layers from a quick stroll around Melaka: churches, mosques and temples piled in around the old harbour area; old warehouses and traders houses, and a huge (if somewhat over-touristed) Chinatown area.  The town and its history are both pretty representative of Malaysia as a whole, I guess.

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Back on the Beast this morning, I was heading north again towards Port Dickson.  Within a few kilometres, I was in beach holiday country.  There are bundles of enormous hotels and nice houses all the way along the road.  I’m now close enough to Kuala Lumpur that I reckon some of the houses must be weekend places for some of the more affluent denizens of the big city.

You can see why; the seaside’s really nice here:

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I’m not intending to hit Kuala Lumpur itself of this trip; I spent a day or two there a few years ago, and don’t think that piling through the biggest city in the country on a bike is necessarily worth it.  I might see the Petronas Towers in the distance; they’re pretty tall, but it depends on how the land lies between the seaside and the city.

So I’m just trundling up the coast for the next few days.  And sweating and drinking loads of water.  And going via Klang, which I still think sounds funny, even if nobody else does.

First Three Days – London to Portsmouth and through Brittany

This is a slightly experimental first post from phone app. Hope it all works…

Well, off to a decent start; 309km or 193miles in three days, and out of the UK and into France. Slept on the ferry, in a wood, and now in a campsite. No discernible differences other than the herd of deer stripping bark from the trees all night. Not on the ferry, obviously.

Nearly starved when France closed down entirely yesterday (Bastille Day), but that’s as close to disaster as I’ve yet come. Met lots of friendly French people, some of whom were strangely concerned with my mental state.

And enjoyed beautiful Brittany; now aiming to cross the Loire tomorrow.

Please accept apols for the blog, btw. Think you can only follow if you’re on a computer at the minute… Will have to wait for a rest day to try and sort it. There were going to be some pics, but taking forever to upload; will put some up when I’ve a better connection.

Thanks, all, for the nice comments here and on Facebook. Will hopefully add a proper update soon.

UPDATE – looks like one of the pics made it after all. This is my nephew Tom making sure I left from Greenwich on Sunday.

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